When Danny Britt became Benedictine Military School’s athletic director and football head coach in 2011, never in his wildest dreams did the former Calvary Day School coach imagine that BC would be the No. 1 boys’ athletic program in southeast Georgia for 10 consecutive years.
But it happened.
During the 2021-22 school year, competing in the Georgia High School Association’s Class AAAA, BC amassed a total of 568 points, which is the best among all boys’ sports south of Atlanta for all classifications A-AAAAAAA, according to the Georgia Athletic Directors Association. It is the 10th straight time BC has earned the distinction.
“I don’t know that sustaining it was even on my mind at that time,” said Britt, who guided BC to football state championship victories in 2021, 2016, and 2014. “When I got here, I felt like we could be very competitive in everything just because of the culture of the school. And my plan at the time, as the athletic director, was to come in as the head football coach and lead with the football program. In other words, establish a way of doing things with football, a philosophy of doing things, and then, hopefully, that would overflow to every other sport. Whether it was through the athletes and what they’re experiencing, the coaches seeing that if you do it this way then these things will happen. That was really the overall philosophy that I was kind of trying to do.”
Since 2012, BC has won 13 state championships combined in GHSA, Georgia Independent School Association (GISA), and South Carolina Independent Lacrosse League (SCILL) competition. Cadets have hoisted state championship trophies in football (GHSA: 2021, 2016, 2014), baseball (GHSA: 2018, 2014), soccer (GHSA: 2018, 2017), sport shooting (GISA: 2021, 2020), Raider (2019), tennis (GHSA: 2018), and lacrosse (SCILL: 2013, 2012).
VISION AND LEADERSHIP
Jack Holland ’03, who in July 2021 was named BC’s athletic director after serving as Britt’s assistant athletic director in 2020, said the Cadets’ athletic dominance is the result of vision and leadership.
“You start with the vision and leadership of a couple of individuals a decade ago,” Holland said. “It starts at the top with (BC Headmaster) Fr. Frank (Ziemkiewicz, O.S.B.) understanding the importance of a well-rounded high school experience. And then you add (BC Football Head Coach) Danny Britt and (BC Assistant Principal/Baseball Head Coach) Kevin Farmer (’92), that came on at similar times, and they had been a part of successful programs in the past. Their experience, their vision, their leadership, their tenacity really helped drive forward the overall athletic program. Not just football and baseball, in which they coach, but it brought a new attitude, a new energy, to the athletic department and the school. It started there.
“And to our guys’ credit, our Cadets, they bought in,” Holland continued. “I remember Danny Britt saying after the first year, we had a good year, not a great year, but the kids fully bought into what he was doing, what the coaching staff was doing, what they were asking. We give a lot of credit to those kids back in 2011, ’12, ’13, ’14, who laid the foundation of the run of success that we’ve had. Those kids really deserve a lot of credit.”
BUILDING A WEIGHT TRAINING PROGRAM
When Britt arrived at BC, one of his first priorities was developing a weight training program for all Cadets. Gone were the days of having a physical education period in which Cadets played pick-up basketball or war-ball in the gym. Every day was intentional.
“The weight room was a major part of that,” Britt said. “When we got here, that was the very first thing that we did is change the weight room both physically and then the mindset behind it. (Former BC Principal) Dr. (Deborah) Antosca was very supportive of that, and we went from having P.E. where some guys would lift to no more P.E., everybody is lifting weights. A few people kicked back on that a little bit but that was the biggest thing. When we made it that everybody is lifting, there was some pushback there for about two months but then the kids started seeing it pay off on the field or the court or whatever their chosen sports were. They also saw it through development. They started looking at their arms and saying, ‘Man, I like that. That looks pretty good. Girls are noticing that I lift now.’ And so it kind of paid off across the board there. As the athletic director and the head football coach, I could show this is what we’re doing and we could have success by doing it this way, and it can translate to every sport. That was the mentality.”
Was that approach something Britt brought with him from Calvary Day School?
“It’s a good question because what had happened to me in my growth is I became the head football coach at Calvary at a very young age,” Britt said. “After five years, I stepped away and was just a principal for two years, just working in administration for two years. It was the best two years because I learned so much about myself. And I had said at that time, whenever I’m a head coach again, I’m going to 1., go in with a different plan, with more of a plan and a mindset of implementation whereas probably before, at a very young age, I was just copying and pasting from my Georgia Southern days.
“Really, it was a lot of what I had learned through self-study, through studying other programs, through sitting back and watching,” Britt continued. “It was the best learning experience I ever had was those two years of not being actually in it. Coming in (to BC), I wasn’t copying what we had at Calvary. It was more along the lines of what I had seen other programs, including specific college programs, doing and saying I want to mimic that.”
ESTABLISHING A CHAMPIONSHIP CULTURE
Britt is in his 12th year at BC. As he looks back on his early days at 6502 Seawright Drive, he allows himself a chuckle – though not a hearty laugh – that is a mixture of fond memories with a hint of nervousness. A coach, especially a winning coach, is like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. A healthy dose of paranoia keeps you alert, sharp, and on the edge where you need to be. What if the Cadets did not “buy in” to the blueprint Britt was selling when he arrived at BC?
“We’ll never know the answer to the question what would have happened if those guys, let’s just stick with the Brad Stewarts, the Stevie Powers class, hadn’t bought in,” Britt said. “We’ll never know because I’d have probably been gone by now. It would have been a different scenario.
“But what happened is when we first got here in ’11, we really started working them in the summer, and the weights, and getting after it,” Britt continued. “Honestly, that first class didn’t really buy in. Immediately, Patrick Fogarty bought in. And he was probably the only one for a while. I’m still close to some of those kids and they come back to me now and go, ‘Gosh, now I see what you were doing. We just didn’t know.’ And I say, ‘How would you know? It's not your fault. How would you know?’ They were just kids. But really that next class bought in and it snowballed. Huge. Huge. It had to happen. Let’s be honest, God blessed us, too. There were some really good athletes in that group. Let’s be honest about that, too. That really helped.
“But the coaches, you had to have the right coaches. Coach (Ken) Cooper, obviously, an incredible man and an incredible mentor of mine,” Britt continued. “He had that mentality and he immediately started thriving in it. And then it became very important to get the head coaches of the other programs to have that mentality. Kevin Farmer is a great example of that, a coach who came in with that same mentality, that there is a way we are going to do things. I came in with ‘Physical. Disciplined. Intelligent.’ That was going to be how we based it, how we built our program. Being very physical isn’t just hitting somebody really hard on the football field. It’s also being in the best physical shape that you can be in, the best in the weight room. Disciplined speaks for itself. And intelligent is as it relates to your sport, being coached well and understanding well. Having all of those people buy in was unbelievably important, so important that if they hadn’t have bought in and we hadn’t have gotten those coaches in, this wouldn’t be happening.”
SWEEPING REGION 3-AAAA
The 2021-22 school year was historic for Benedictine, athletically, as Cadets helped BC win GHSA Region 3-AAAA championships in every sport contested (football, cross country, basketball, wrestling, baseball, tennis, soccer, and track & field) in which GHSA Region 3-AAAA offers championships. The GHSA does not offer Region 3-AAAA championships in lacrosse, golf, rifle, or Raiders.
The GHSA also does not offer sport shooting, so BC competes in the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA). BC’s sport shooting team won the 2021 GISA state championship, its second consecutive state championship.
“I’ve never seen it,” Britt said. “In fact, I didn’t realize it was happening until we were pretty late in the year and Jack (Holland) mentioned something about it and I went, ‘Wow! I guess it just hadn’t dawned on me.’ I’m sure Buford up in Atlanta probably does things like that quite a bit. Honestly, maybe probably a Marist. But I haven’t heard of it. It’s very impressive. It speaks a lot to the culture of the school, to the coaches of every sport, to the kids. Whatever they’re doing, they take it very seriously and put a lot into it. That’s across the board. I’m very impressed by that. I think it’s awesome.”
Said Holland, “It is unique, for the first time in school history, to win every single region championship that was presented in a given school year. That’s very rare. Again, that’s a credit to our coaches and players to accomplish that and, hopefully, we can continue that moving forward.”
UTILIZING THE SAGE DINING PROGRAM
Another ingredient (pun intended) in BC’s athletic success is the benefit of the SAGE Dining food service program at BC. Britt likens it to the “training table” that professional and big-time college programs provide for their players. Each day, Cadets have an opportunity to eat healthy meals at lunch instead of junk food from McDonald’s or Taco Bell.
“I think it’s unbelievably important across the board, but certainly for football players because, as you can imagine, we are demanding so much,” Britt said. “Having SAGE and Chef Vince (Freyne) and what they do is just incredible. And these guys are getting nutrition. If you look at it, we stay in school longer than anybody else. Because of the military aspect, the religious aspect, there’s eight periods in a day. Then we’re extremely demanding of them in the weight room and on the field or court, so I think it’s hugely important. It’s also hugely important that our administration supports us. When I can, I’ll provide them Powerade and stuff like that. When we go to play games, we’re going to eat in good restaurants and provide them food after the game instead of stopping by a McDonald’s where it’s not going to be as good of a food. I think that’s a huge aspect; of course it is. Look at colleges and what they do, and the nutrition and the millions and millions (of dollars) that they’re pumping into their nutrition for their athletes. I think it’s hugely important. And SAGE is just … I can’t imagine being in high school and having that kind of food available. As an athlete, that’s extremely important.”
THE POWER OF BROTHERHOOD
The final piece of the puzzle is the esprit de corps among the 400-plus boys at BC. Britt and Holland agreed that winning has a snowball effect, as the Cadets have demonstrated by taking ownership of their various teams’ programs.
“The weightlifting program, the conditioning, our coaches ask a lot out of our kids, not just in-season but off-season, the demand that they require of our kids,” Holland said. “It’s not just going to make us bigger and faster and stronger so that we can compete, but it makes the kids take ownership of the program because they know if they’re going to put that much time, energy, sweat, tears into something that when it comes time for the season and, ultimately, the postseason, they’re fully invested in that team, that program.
“You see all of our kids pulling for each other. Kids that don’t play certain sports are pulling for their classmates and their friends in other sports because they know what they go through year-round. As a BC alumnus, it’s quite incredible to see what our Cadets do on a daily basis. You have your normal academic work, your JROTC requirements, and then you put on top of that the athletic load that is required for them … success just doesn’t happen. You don’t just fall into success. It’s been a tremendous combination of school leadership, coaches – not just head coaches, but assistant coaches that fully buy into what we’re doing for these young men – and then, ultimately, it’s our kids that bust their tails 12 months out of the year to make it happen on the field and on the courts.
“And, like I said, as an alum, as someone who’s been here now full-time for the last seven years, to see the transformation from where we were to where we are now and, obviously, the success this past school year, speaks for itself. The region championships are tremendous. The state championships are great. But to see all that hard work, what that leads to, and the success that the kids are able to enjoy and, ultimately, the memories that are made from that success, it’s a great feeling not only as an alum but as someone who is here every day to see that happen for these young men.”